Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pages for Pride: Autoboyography - Christina Lauren

*Intro*
Hi, I'm Carlene and today we're talking about Pride!
Okay, that's how I picture I'd start the YouTube vlog if I had one, I don't, so you get my rambling typing here. June is Pride month, what started as a commemoration for the Stonewall Riots has become a month to recognize the impact LGBTQ+ people have had in the world. It is a reminder of the discrimination and violence faced, as well as a time for demonstration, both socially and politically, and celebration. While I support LGBTQ+ rights in my personal life, I haven't previously discussed it on my blog or social media. For me, personally, that's a problem. I had to ask myself if I was truly an ally if it didn't touch every aspect of my life and it didn't feel like I was. The media, including books and television, I consume should not be limited to what I self-identify with. In turn, the media I put out there should reflect those beliefs as well and upon review, it hasn't.

I gave myself a personal challenge, a challenge that would require me, in the month of June, to seek out novels both about and written by those who identify as LGBTQ+. I chose this area, while small, because it is an area where I feel I can make an actual contribution. I run a book blog, I have a lifestyle Instagram, I have a following that I can reach. My hope is that these books that I haven't previously read might not have been read by those that follow me either and maybe a domino affect will occur. My hope is that it will make me more conscious, both of what I consume and put out there, but also of the role I have in supporting social justice.

It turns out I wasn't the only one seeking to do this challenge or something similar. #PagesforPride was started by David Lopez, @hisreadingnook, on Instagram and in his own words, "Books hold the same power as, in reading, we transport ourselves through time to better understand those around us. It is my hope that, this June, you will designate one book to better understand the community I proudly identify with." While I started my personal challenge on my own, 7 days into June I have joined David's #pagesforpride and will be reading books (yes, way more than one) and sharing them both here on my blog and on Instagram to commemorate Pride. I have a number of bookish friends that have joined me and we are all sharing our Pride reads and recommendations on Instagram daily. You can check out the hashtag to see what everyone is reading, as well as following along with me @carleneinspired, and as always, find my full length reviews here.

My first read, Autoboyography by Christina Lauren, was such an incredible, thought-provoking read and I am actually really excited to share it here today. It was recommended by several friends and upon completing it I cannot wait to read the other books that friends have sent my way. You can read Autoboyography FREE right now on RivetedLit.com, hosted by SimonTeen. Autoboyography, as well as a few other LGBTQ+ reads, will be available on Riveted through the month of June, all you have to do is sign up.

I invite you to please reach out to me if you'd like to talk further, I am aware that there will be times I say or do something wrong and I ask that you please let me know. We always have something to learn, some way to grow, and I welcome that growth. If you have books, television, movies, blogs, whatever that you want to share with me, please feel free to reach out to me by email, carleneinspired@gmail.com, or through Instagram or Facebook.


Autoboyography
by Christina Lauren
Published: September 12, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, LGBT

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Review
5 Stars

Isn't high school difficult enough without owning the identity of being bisexual and non-religious in the town of Provo, Utah? Tanner, while out and proud at home, has agreed with his parents that keeping his identity quiet is for the best, his family's past experiences with identity in a Mormon family weighing heavy in their decision. His best friend, slightly annoyed by his easy success in school, prods him to join the prestigious Seminar, a class the challenges students to write a novel in just 4 months. Tanner takes Autumn on, 4 months seems like too long to write a novel and he wants to prove to her what a joke the class is. It only takes on class though to make Tanner recognize that not only is 4 months an eternity, it also can go by in the blink of an eye when one Sebastian Brother, son of a local Bishop, catches his eye and turns his world, and his heart, upside down.

"This is how we reveal ourselves: these tiny flashes of discomfort, the reactions we can't hide."

I do not feel worthy of reviewing this novel, how could the words I have to say about it even come close to the beautiful, moving prose inside the pages of Autoboyography? The truth is, they just won't, and so much that I want to talk about I can't, I refuse to spoil this read for you. Christina Lauren, the author duo, have created a coming-of-age novel that encompasses all of the feelings of high school angst, with the added bonus of identifying as queer and living in a small, predominantly Mormon town. As a part time resident of a similarly small town in Utah, I can say that Autoboyography reads incredibly accurate for the present time and location. We all know the natural feeling of not fitting in, even our most popular friends will tell you they had those same fears and worries, but Tanner's self discovery, while not unique entirely, is incredibly unique in the Mormon town of Provo.

"In reality, I'm thinking that it isn't fair to think of Sebastian as an LDS diehard. I don't know how to explain it, but he seems so much more than that."

I loved Tann and Seb, it was impossible not to. Autoboyography is their journey, separate and together, of self discovery. It is a story of first love, that initial awareness of one another, the butterflies that follow and the risk one takes for that all consuming feeling. It's the story of religion and boundaries and beliefs. Tann initial sees Provo as suffocating, he has non-LDS friends and a handful of LDS friends, he breaks them into these groups himself. His limited understanding of Mormonism changes entirely with his crush on Sebastian, an up and coming author that seems to blush with every look Tann sends his way. Sebastian is LDS, he's set to go on his mission shortly and with his father being a Bishop he has an image to uphold. Where Tann is comfortable in a graphic tee and holey jeans, Sebastian is clean cut and proper, the image of conservative. Their tentative friendship blossoms, taking Tanner on a journey into the "nice" mormon world, with family visits and acts of service. I was incredibly impressed with Christina Lauren taking the difficult topic of Mormonism on, I loved when Tanner questions his family's dislike of the religion and cheered as CL took him on a deep dive into their past practices with those that identify as queer, giving him a voice that is part innocent and part gay rights warrior. Tanner believes Seb when he says he feels right in his feelings for Tann, but the looming threat of sin that Seb will not be allowed to commit cannot be ignored.

"Now there's a guy, with a name and a phone. We've all been so cool about it, but I realize, sitting here at this silent dinner table, that there are layers to their acceptance."

I highlighted more passages in Autoboyography than I have in any YA novel. That's saying a lot, because two of my favorite authors only write YA and I consider their books some of the absolute best out there. Autoboyography just resonated with me, it took me back to high school, it put me into the shoes of another and gave me an experience that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I felt the angst, the worries, the elation, and the absolutely crushing feeling of heartbreak as I read. It carries a powerful message of acceptance, all while showcasing that being considered different can make one feel so small. I was so sad for Tanner and Seb, they have to fight against a conditional love, rather than safely knowing that anything they did would never stop the love of family and friends. Just thinking about it makes me cry, that's how well Christina Lauren tackled the topic of sexuality and acceptance.

"'Why wouldn't you just be with a girl, then?' He asked quietly. 'If you were attracted to them? Wouldn't it be so much easier?'"
*SOBS*

Autoboyography is a complex story about a simple love and the power of acceptance. It's the sort of book you pick up and read, non-stop, until you are finished, captivated by the words and the incredible characters in its pages.

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